Map of Lions Gate sewage treatment plant sites.

Metro Vancouver’s new Lions Gate sewage plant pegged at $560m

New wastewater plant to get secondary treatment to meet federal pollution standard

Metro Vancouver’s planned new Lions Gate sewage treatment plant won’t include many bells and whistles like a once-mooted wedding chapel.

And the plant replacement project will stop at secondary treatment – not the more advanced tertiary treatment demanded by environmental groups – in the name of saving money.

“There’s no water slides, no wedding chapels,” Metro utilities committee chair Darrell Mussatto said, but added there may be a very large farmable green roof and some public art.

He said the design, picked from three short-listed options, is “basically finalized” –subject to further public input in the weeks ahead.

And all of the region is expected to share to some degree in the $560-million estimated cost, which is up from an initial $400 million but not as costly as planners had feared.

It’s the first of two big sewage plants Metro must upgrade from primary treatment – basic screening and skimming – to reduce ocean pollution and meet new federal standards.

The Metro board must still decide how the costs will be apportioned, but staff are proposing that some of it be spread onto taxpayers outside the North Shore and City of Vancouver benefitting area, where sewage fees would otherwise soar by hundreds of dollars.

Mussatto said the proposed design ensures the odour from the new plant will be “totally contained” to protect neighbours in North Vancouver District’s Norgate area.

Georgia Strait Alliance executive director Christianne Wilhelmson, who sits on an advisory committee on behalf of environmental groups, is still pushing for a design that allows future upgrades to more advanced treatment methods and recovery of resources.

“Technology is changing,” she said. “What’s most important to us is eliminating emerging endocrine-disrupting chemicals as well as a broad range of pharmaceuticals.”

Wilhelmson said secondary treatment recovers at best half of those chemicals, which can change the hormonal development of fish and add to the contamination of  marine mammals such as orcas.

“When we’re eating those fish it can have human impacts as well.”

But Mussatto said high-end tertiary treatment that would discharge very safe effluent to Burrard Inlet could have driven the Lions Gate price tag over $1 billion.

“It’s too cost-prohibitive at this point to do that,” he said.

Even at the lower cost using secondary treatment – which Ottawa now requires – Metro is still counting on large senior government grants.

“If we don’t get the federal and provincial cost-sharing we will not be able to build this.”

Metro also expects to pay $1 billion to upgrade its Iona wastewater treatment plant, which discharges to the ocean between Richmond and Vancouver.

The new Lions Gate plant will be in an industrial zone two kilometres east of the old one.

It will use the same outfall pipe and Metro will transfer the land used by the existing treatment plant to the Squamish Nation in 2021.

Mussatto said Metro is negotiating with the Squamish Nation for a right-of-way through reserve land to connect to the outfall.

The first nation also wants a broader look at transportation planning in the area and Mussatto credited aboriginal leaders for proposing “innovative ideas” to reduce traffic pressure on Taylor Way and Marine Drive.

Still to be determined is what degree of public-private partnership will be used – one where a private partner merely designs and builds the treatment plant, or potentially finances it and operates it as well.

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